They have been recorded by virtually every famous (and not so famous) quartet. The Arcantos bring a special distinction to everything they play (no wonder, with Antje Weithaas and Tabea Zimmermann – both internationally recognised soloists in their own right – as first violin and viola). Here they create a convincing contrast between the quartets. Debussy’s is surely the most Romantic music he ever composed, and the slow movement is played with alternating passion and tenderness to wonderful effect; the drama of the rest is fully realised. Curiously, both works have pizzicatos; the Ravel scherzo (beloved of television producers as current affairs show theme music) is taken with extra bite.
In the slow movement I can only describe their exquisite performance as the musical equivalent of silken tresses. The Ravel is essentially more Gallic and cooler than the Debussy, except for the intense rapt climax. The Dutilleux, subtitled Ainsi la nuit, (“Thus at night”) with its Ligeti-like epigrammatic movements, is, perhaps, a strange choice. Composed in the mid-1970s, it is, nonetheless, a fascinating work, with what I can only call a suspenseful ambience, especially in the rather sinister fourth movement.